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Active Ooid Growth Driven By Sediment Transport in a High-Energy Shoal, Little Ambergris Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands

Trower, Elizabeth J. and Cantine, Marjorie D. and Gomes, Maya L. and Grotzinger, John P. and Knoll, Andrew H. and Lamb, Michael P. and Lingappa, Usha and O'Reilly, Shane S. and Present, Theodore M. and Stein, Nathan and Strauss, Justin V. and Fischer, Woodward W. (2018) Active Ooid Growth Driven By Sediment Transport in a High-Energy Shoal, Little Ambergris Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands. Journal of Sedimentary Research, 88 (9). pp. 1132-1151. ISSN 1527-1404. doi:10.2110/jsr.2018.59.

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Ooids are a common component of carbonate successions of all ages and present significant potential as paleoenvironmental proxies, if the mechanisms that control their formation and growth can be understood quantitatively. There are a number of hypotheses about the controls on ooid growth, each offering different ideas on where and how ooids accrete and what role, if any, sediment transport and abrasion might play. These hypotheses have not been well tested in the field, largely due to the inherent challenges of tracking individual grains over long timescales. This study presents a detailed field test of ooid-growth hypotheses on Little Ambergris Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands, British Overseas Territories. This field site is characterized by westward net sediment transport from waves driven by persistent easterly trade winds. This configuration makes it possible to track changes in ooid properties along their transport path as a proxy for changes in time. Ooid size, shape, and radiocarbon age were compared along this path to determine in which environments ooids are growing or abrading. Ooid surface textures, petrographic fabrics, stable-isotope compositions (δ^(13)C, δ^(18)O, and δ^(34)S), lipid geochemistry, and genetic data were compared to characterize mechanisms of precipitation and degradation and to determine the relative contributions of abiotic (e.g., abiotic precipitation, physical abrasion) and biologically influenced processes (e.g., biologically mediated precipitation, fabric destruction through microbial microboring and micritization) to grain size and character. A convergence of evidence shows that active ooid growth occurs along the transport path in a high-energy shoal environment characterized by frequent suspended-load transport: median ooid size increases by more than 100 μm and bulk radiocarbon ages decrease by 360 yr westward along the ∼ 20 km length of the shoal crest. Lipid and 16S rRNA data highlight a spatial disconnect between the environments with the most extensive biofilm colonization and environments with active ooid growth. Stable-isotope compositions are indistinguishable among samples, and are consistent with abiotic precipitation of aragonite from seawater. Westward increases in ooid sphericity and the abundance of well-polished ooids illustrate that ooids experience subequal amounts of growth and abrasion—in favor of net growth—as they are transported along the shoal crest. Overall, these results demonstrate that, in the Ambergris system, the mechanism of ooid growth is dominantly abiotic and the loci of ooid growth is determined by both carbonate saturation and sediment transport mode. Microbes play a largely destructive, rather than constructive, role in ooid size and fabric.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Trower, Elizabeth J.0000-0001-9898-5589
Grotzinger, John P.0000-0001-9324-1257
Knoll, Andrew H.0000-0003-1308-8585
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Lingappa, Usha0000-0001-5691-6788
Present, Theodore M.0000-0002-4747-2174
Stein, Nathan0000-0003-3385-9957
Strauss, Justin V.0000-0003-3298-3227
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Additional Information:© 2018, SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology). We thank Hannah Grotzinger, Kyle Metcalfe, Emily Orzechowski, Daven Quinn, Leigh Anne Riedman, Sophia Roosth, Elizabeth Sibert, and Max Tarika for their assistance in the field. We thank Stephanie Moore (Washington University in St. Louis), Xiaolei Liu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Kat Dawson (Rutgers University), Fenfang Wu (California Institute of Technology, and John Naviaux (California Institute of Technology) for technical support and David Fike (Washington University in St. Louis) and Roger Summons (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for access to facilities. We thank Bevo and Roger Tarika, Paul Mahoney, and James Seymour for logistical support on Big Ambergris Cay. We thank Frank Corsetti, Noah Planavsky, and one anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments. We thank the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Heritage and Culture (MTEHC) of the Turks and Caicos Islands Government for granting us access to do research on Little Ambergris Cay. NOSAMS is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Cooperative Agreement OCE-1239667. EJT acknowledges support from an Agouron Geobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship. SOR acknowledges support from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Programme and the Irish Research Council (ELEVATE Postdoctoral Fellowship ELEVATEPD/2014/47) and from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrobiology Institute (NNA13AA90A). This work was supported by the Agouron Institute and an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Grant #56757-ND8 (to WWF).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Agouron InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Marie Curie FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Irish Research CouncilELEVATEPD/2014/47
American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund56757-ND8
Issue or Number:9
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20181024-074932781
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Elizabeth J. Trower, Marjorie D. Cantine, Maya L. Gomes, John P. Grotzinger, Andrew H. Knoll, Michael P. Lamb, Usha Lingappa, Shane S. O'Reilly, Theodore M. Present, Nathan Stein, Justin V. Strauss, Woodward W. Fischer; Active Ooid Growth Driven By Sediment Transport in a High-Energy Shoal, Little Ambergris Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands. Journal of Sedimentary Research ; 88 (9): 1132–1151. doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:90387
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:24 Oct 2018 18:13
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 03:32

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